Call me when you need a break.
Allison read the text from Kassandra once, twice, three times. The first time, she read in astonishment; the second and third times, she read with deepening gratitude.
As she waited for the soup she’d made for her parents’ lunch to heat up, Allison called.
“Are you at work?” she asked Kassandra.
“Just stepped out for my 15 minute break, so your timing is perfect,” Kassandra answered. Allison allowed herself to suspect that this was a white lie, that the young artist-barista had called to her work mate and said, hey, I’m taking my break now, when she saw Allison’s name on her phone.
She is just that much more kind than the rest of us, Allison thought.
“How’s your mom?” Kassandra asked.
“Fine, you know, as much as can be expected,” Allison said. She prepared herself to launch into the story of her mom’s diagnosis, surgery, prognosis, but Kassandra spoke again.
“Good. And you? How are you?”
Perhaps it was the unexpectedness of the question, or even the way Kassandra had reached out. Or perhaps it was the build up of all the worry over her mother’s condition. Maybe, it was the accumulated frustration of being cast as both child and caregiver.
Allison began to cry. She stepped to the other side of the kitchen door, closed it behind her, huddled under the little overhang on the back stoop. And cried.
“I thought so,” Kassandra said, softly.
When Allison could choke out a few words, they were an apology. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Nothing to apologize for. You need to let it out. It’s okay. It’s necessary. I don’t mind. I can listen to you cry as long as you need to.”
This made Allison giggle. The image of Kassandra, on Pine Street, holding her phone close enough to listen to a friend sob, while squinting into the sun or trying to find a place out of the spring wind, seemed terribly funny.
Soon, they were both laughing. Young women, each facing very different challenges, had found a moment to laugh together, across the miles between them.
“I’d better get back inside. My parents need their lunch.” After a few more shared giggles, Allison hung up and returned to her parents.
Friendship, Allison pondered, is such a gift.